File photo: Workers in Cairo joined thousands of state employees on strike Thursday in spreading labor unrest that has pumped further strength and momentum into Egypt's wave of anti-government protests. Writing in Arabic on placard center-left reads "Increase basic pay" and on placard center-right "End of work pension: 60 months. Infection risk pay: 100 percent. Rule No. 48 replacing rule No. 47." (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
An Alexandria misdemeanors court overturned jail sentences for five workers from the Alexandria Container & Cargo Handling Company, reported the Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress – comprised of over 271 independent labour unions – on Sunday.
The court had sentenced the five workers in absentia last September to one to three years in prison for inciting a labour strike, in addition to fines of LE10,000 each.
During the re-trial, the court recognized that workers have to right to strike under Egyptian law, and that no worker should be imprisoned for this act.
Egypt's 2003 Labour Law recognized the right to strike for the first time, although it imposed many restrictions.
According to the law, which is highly contested by labor activists and independent unions, a strike is legal only if the employer is notified ten days in advance.
Two-thirds of the industry's union board members must also approve of the strike.
The Alexandria Container & Cargo Handling Company filed a lawsuit accusing the striking workers – and the union's administrative board – of inciting workers to strike, wasting public funds, and disrupting work.
In March, dock workers went on strike to demand the removal of the company's board of directors, whom they accused of corruption.
Striking workers also demanded that the docks be returned to the custodianship of the state, after having been leased to Chinese and other foreign port-services companies.
Since the January 25 Revolution, industrial action has erupted all over the country, with workers demanding better wages, bonuses, health insurance, workplace equality and proper contracts.